Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan’s government-aligned parliament pushed the human rights ombudswoman out of her job on May 3 only weeks after she published a report documenting what she described as a decline in the country’s rights landscape.
Advocates for Adyr Abdrakhmatova have decried her ouster as a troubling signal of Kyrgyzstan’s increasing indifference to its human rights obligations.
The initiative to secure Abdrakhmatova’s compelled resignation began with MPs in Ata-Jurt, a party with historic links to the head of the security services, Kamchybek Tashiyev. Their campaign to oust the ombudswoman came in response to a report she delivered to parliament on April 19 in which she spoke about what she cast as a systemic violation of human rights by government bodies.
“There has recently been increased pressure on journalists, activists, bloggers and netizens for expressing opinions and criticizing government agencies. This has generated discontent among the public and the international community,” she told lawmakers.
MPs with pronounced pro-government sympathies did not take Abdrakhmatova’s report well. Erbol Sultanbayev, a spokesman for President Sadyr Japarov, was similarly unhappy.
“We have no oppression of freedom of speech,” Sultanbayev told the state news agency Kabar. “The Ombudswoman was covering for those people who want to destabilize the situation in the country. Maybe that's why she sees the situation the way she does.”
Sultanbayev was not specific in identifying whom he perceives as destabilizing the country, although it appears likely he was alluding to the dozens of activists and politicians arrested last year on spurious claims that they were plotting to overthrow the government. Supporters of the detainees have suggested that the sweep of arrests was a response to their campaigning against a border deal with Uzbekistan that government critics argued stood to deprive Kyrgyzstan of valuable territory.
Abdrakhmatova spoke repeatedly on behalf of those prisoners to highlight what she said were the poor conditions in which they were being held.
Her April 19 address to parliament was the last straw for pro-government lawmakers. On April 27, the parliament’s constitutional legislation committee voted in favor of recalling her mandate. Lawmakers then definitively sealed this process in a plenary session of the chamber on May 3.
Rights activists appealed in vain for the government to intervene on Abdrakhmatova’s behalf. On May 2, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, an international confederation of rights groups, appealed to President Japarov and the government to prevent her dismissal, which they described as an act of “repression.”
Failing to defend Abdrakhmatova from political pressure was in violation of Kyrgyzstan’s requirements to uphold principles enshrined in resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, GANHRI said in statement.
Human Rights Watch weighed in last month.
“The dismissal of Ombudswoman Abdrakhmatova would be another troubling signal to the international community that Kyrgyzstan does not take its human rights obligations seriously,” said Syinat Sultanaliyeva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Abdrakhmatova has not so far commented on her dismissal. She took up her post in March 2022 and had been due to serve a five-year term. Prior to taking up this role, she served on the Central Election Commission.
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.